Frank Dobson 1888-1963

Provenance

 Private Collection, UK

Exhibitions

Kettle’s Yard, 1981 cat.no. 39

Literature

Contemporary Arts Society Report, 1925

Tate Illustations, 1928 pl. 128

 

Apollo Magazine September, 1928 p.132

 

Jason and Thompson-Pharoah The Sculpture of Frank Dobson The Henry Moore Foundation in association with Lund Humphries, cat. no. 48, black and white illustration, p. 130 

Frank Dobson (1886-1963) was born in London, and studied first at the Hastings School of Art and then at the City and Guilds Art School at Kennington. Initially a painter, after 1921 he produced only sculpture. Dobson was one of the foremost British sculptors of the 1920s, and at the heart of multiple cultural and artistic movements, particularly during the 1920s. He associated with Wyndham Lewis and Jacob Epstein, and exhibited with the Vorticists, he was a member of the London Group and particularly promoted by Roger Fry and Clive Bell but also part of the St. Ive's set, and close to Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1942 and taught sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1946 to 1953 and was awarded a CBE. Dobson's portraits are currently the subject of an exhibition, alongside portraits by Matthew Smith, at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Head of a Girl was produced in 1925, when Frank Dobson was experiencing a sustained period of professional success and critical acclaim. Having exhibited with the Vorticist associated Group X at the start of the 1920s, Dobson was exhibiting with the London Group by 1923 and served as President between 1924 and 1926. In 1925 he was a founder member of the world first Film Society and in the same year a founder member of the London Artists’ Association. In 1924 he was the only living artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, alongside the late Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, chosen ahead of Eric Gill and Jacob Epstein, and in 1926 he was chosen to form part of the Selection Committee for the Venice Biennale. A commercially successful exhibition at the Independent Gallery in 1924 also attracted critical attention from Roger Fry and Clive Bell and in 1925 Fry published an article entitled ‘Mr Dobson’s Sculpture’ in the Burlington Magazine, lauding the practice of Dobson. In 1926 the first monographic book on Dobson’s work written by Raymond Mortimer was published. Dobson’s masterpiece from this period was his Ham Hill stone sculpture, Cornucopia (1925-27), and Head of a Girl (1925) was a preparatory study for this monumental piece. Cornucopia, heavily influenced by his encounter with Buddhist and Hindu sculpture during his 1925 trip to Sri Lanka, depicts a wading woman holding a basket of fruit and was the centrepiece of Dobson’s seminal exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in March 1927, where it was purchased by Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill. Head of a Girl became a work of significance in its own right, however, and one of the three cast bronze versions was presented to the Tate by the Contemporary Art Society in 1929. Head of a Girl was also exhibited in 1930 at the Leicester Galleries, in 1931 at Arthur Tooth & Sons, at Bristol Art Gallery in 1940 and at Kettle’s Yard in 1981. The importance of Head of a Girl in this period of mature brilliance in Dobson’s career is reflected through the use of an image of the plaster model as the frontispiece for Raymond Mortimer’s 1926 monograph.